Election lineup finalized

by Mike Kroll

The list of Galesburg candidates for the April 5th Consolidated election is now finalized. The races for two of the three aldermanic positions, mayor and city treasurer will be contested while the remaining aldermanic candidate, Bill Kendall (Ward 2) and city clerk Anita Carlton will face no opposition. Perhaps the most interesting race will be in Ward 4 where alderman Tony Gerk is retiring after three terms and three candidates have filed. At the township level neither assessor Darrell Lovell nor supervisor Christine Eik Winick face opposition.

City elections have not traditionally attracted so much interest among either candidates or the public as the one upcoming. Perhaps it is the sad state of the local employment economy or the manner in which the present city council has attempted to address the closings of Maytag, Butler and related firms that has inspired so much interest. Or , maybe it is concern over what everyone expects to be a lean next few years in terms of both property and sales taxes that account for the contested races. In any event the real test of interest will be how or even if these candidates campaign on any real issues. At this point we have little indication what any of the challengers would like to see done differently or why the incumbents feel they deserve reelection. The simple presence of opposition does not necessarily mean there will be lively debate of the issues.

Bill Kendall is seeking his second term on the city council. He replaced Margaret Hall as second ward alderman in 2001. The second ward is most of the east part of Galesburg and includes everything east of the Burlington Northern north-south line and north of Berrien Street although the ward boundary extends a bit further south east of Grand Avenue. Kendall is the owner operator of Bob's Towing service here in Galesburg.

The fourth ward is basically he southwestern quadrant of the city. In terms of area it is pretty large, this is due in part to the presence of much of Galesburg's industrial area and it also includes the prison. Gerk has talked about retiring from the city council for the last few years and plans to move to Florida later this year. He went out and recruited Doug Wall to be his annoited successor. Wall is 44, a political newcomer and would be the youngest alderman if elected. He works for Galesburg Castings and pledges to "represent the people's opinion" even it it conflicts with his own. This was also the position Gerk has taken as he fought most tax increases and regulatory expansion.

Two political veterans will face Wall in April. Lomac Payton is a former Knox County Board chair and longtime county board member. Payton currently sits on the Knox County Housing Authority Board where he intends to remain even if elected alderman. He operates Payton's Upholstery Shop on South Street behind his home and has been active in neighborhood watch as well as neighborhood cleanup efforts.

Also running in Fourth Ward is Elizabeth Padilla Smith. Smith lives on West Brooks Street and is in sales. She has formerly served on the Knox County Board and is active in local Democratic politics. In her opinion economic development is the key issue facing Galesburg but she disputes the current reliance upon the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association. "A lot of taxpayer money is being spent with the GREDA bunch who have nothing to show for the investment. They sat back and did nothing when the new owner of Butler announced that they would close this plant and are now trying to get new business into Galesburg by promising cheap labor! We need jobs that pay a living wage and offer benefits not just seven dollars an hour without benefits. We have good hard working people here in Galesburg that deserve better."

In the Sixth Ward Wayne Allen is seeking his second term on the city council. This ward covers the west central portion of the city north of the Santa Fe tracks, south of Dayton and (mostly) west of Henderson Street Retired from Butler and active in numerous community causes Allen has actively supported Neighborhood Watch and its efforts to more tightly regulate residential exterior appearance. He has also been a major booster of GREDA and sees the new logistics park as a key to Galesburg's economic future.

Deborah Dalton hopes to replace Allen. She filed on Tuesday but was unavailable when I tried to contact her.

In the mayor's race we find incumbent Bob Sheehan seeking his third term. Manager of Midwest Photo and a former Knox County Board member, Sheehan beat former mayor Fred Kimble in 1997. He has been lauded for opening city council meetings to greater public participation and generally running a friendlier meeting. The knock against Sheehan is that despite being a really nice guy he hasn't used the position to actually accomplish much as mayor. He has been lauded for his handling of the ceremonial aspects of the job and he genuinely seems to enjoy those duties.

Squaring off against Sheehan is Gary Smith, CEO of NAIER. Smith is motivated by the economic challenges currently facing Galesburg. He believes that new approaches to economic development need to be tried. Smith points to his experience running NAIER and the business contacts he has made from that position as reasons why he would be a good choice for mayor. Although the powers of the mayor's office are weak under the council-manager form of government Smith believes that as mayor he will be a stronger leader.

With Tom Wilson stepping down the city treasurer's office is an open contest between Becky Mason and Ron White. Mason is running as an almost incumbent, having worked in the treasurer's office for 15 years, the last 12 as Wilson's deputy. White currently works for Alexis Fire Equipment and previously was city administrator in Knoxville. He hopes to expand the functions of the treasurer's office and believes his education and experience make him the stronger candidate. Making her own case for election Mason says that in addition to her intimate knowledge of the office functions only she will devote herself totally to the treasurer's position. This is in reference to White's acknowledged plan to retain his position with Alexis Fire Equipment even if elected.